Survey shows worrying downward trend of seafarers’ satisfaction at work 

Seafarers are feeling less happy and there are statistics to prove it.

Every quarter, the Mission to Seafarers conducts a survey to determine how seafarers are feeling regarding certain aspects of their life and work. The Seafarers Happiness Index (SHI) survey is conducted online, and seafarers all over the world are encourage to answer 10 key questions, the results of which provide important insights into the situation that seafarers face at work. 

The latest SHI Quarter 3 indicated that seafarers were less happy, their happiness level, from a total score of 10, went down to 6.6 from 6.77 in Quarter 2. Surveys of the last five quarters revealed a downward trend of life and work satisfaction, and happiness of seafarers. 

Wages and salary satisfaction was 6.49, down from 7.02;  satisfaction over physical wellness was 6.74, down from 6.9; satisfaction over connectivity onboard was pegged at 6.81, down from 7.11; and sentiments over excessive workloads was 5.81, down from 6.5, which was the biggest drop and was due to expanding regulations and administrative tasks. 

The survey stated: “Excessive workloads also negatively affect seafarers’ health, causing fatigue and burnout. Insufficient rest, sleep loss from manning shortages, and relentless paperwork take a toll both physically and mentally. There appears to be a growing sense of unmanageable responsibilities among seafarers, which is causing a huge amount of stress.” 

Respondents also revealed concerns regarding inadequate salary especially for senior roles.  There were also reports that catering budget constraints have in some cases led to nutritional compromises. Satisfaction level of interaction with other seafarers was down at 7.42 from 7.47, due to cultural misunderstandings and prejudices.

The survey also added: “There are also some troubling insights into gender disparities and barriers to diversity and inclusion.” Female seafarers reported instances wherein they experienced a lack of acceptance, discomfort and exclusion.

Andrew Wright, secretary general, Mission to Seafarers, expressed concern that seafarer happiness fell again in the last quarter. He said this “paints a worrying picture”.

“It seems clear that happiness levels will not recover to acceptable levels unless we can address the systemic challenges that continue to undermine the welfare of our seafarers, such as limited shore leave, unsustainable workloads, insufficient connectivity, and stagnant wages.”

On the other hand, satisfaction with shore leave, training and food showed marginal improvements. Be that as it may, efforts should be made by all stakeholders to reverse the declines in seafarer wellbeing.

Internet connectivity crucial to mental health 

The survey complemented the findings of the latest SAFETY4SEA SEAFiT report regarding how internet connectivity was important to seafarers. 

According to the report, which surveyed seafarers during the first two quarters of 2023, over 70 percent of the crew members relied on high-quality internet access to maintain connections with their loved ones back on land. A huge majority of 91 percent of all survey participants agreed this was important.

The 2023 SEAFiT Crew Survey was the largest survey on crew welfare, with the participation of 1,600 ships and 19,000 seafarers.  

Photo credit: iStock/ Caiaimage/Martin Barraud

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